“I know the region from having suffered here a lot in training and in races, and I knew that it can often be hard,” Boonen told La Dernière Heure.
With 40 kilometres to go, as the already demanding race entered a section buffeted by crosswinds, Boonen and his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team hit the front of the peloton, and quickly split the field into five distinct echelons. With eventual winner Julien Simon caught behind, however, Saur-Sojasun managed to restore order to the bunch ahead of the run-in to Namur.
“We wanted to go for it and make the selection,” Boonen said. “I put in a serious effort and the race broke up, but unfortunately they got back on behind afterwards. But everybody who got back on seemed pretty tired, which shows that our move had some effect.”
The final drag to the line at the citadel in Namur seemed an ideal test site for the finale of the world championships in Valkenburg, where the finish line is just 1.5km beyond the summit of the Cauberg. Caught on the back foot as the climb began, however, Boonen was unable to make up the ground and came home in 22nd.
“I wasn’t able to stay with the first group on the climb up to the citadel, but it wasn’t due to a lack of strength,” Boonen said. “For sure, I would have liked to have followed the best, but I got blocked just after the small bridge, right at the moment when Marcato and Leukemans attacked.
“Maybe I could have closed the gap that had opened, but after that, it would have been finished for me. Maybe that’s proof that I’m not 100 percent yet, but I’m satisfied. I wanted to test myself and this test succeeded.”
Boonen will ride the inaugural world championships team time trial in Valkenburg on Sunday, his final outing before the following weekend’s road race.